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You may have recently moved to Canada to study or work, and are gradually adapting to the new place and culture. Here are some basics to make sure you comfortably fit into life in Canada!

Weather

Canada has four distinct seasons:

Spring     (March – May)
Summer (June – August)
Fall          (September – October)
Winter    (November – February)

For average seasonal temperatures and detailed weather information of each city, visit the Government of Canada’s weather website.

Local Currency

Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar ($). The Canadian dollar is available in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Canadian coins come in denominations of 5 cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter), 1 dollar (loonie) and 2 dollars (toonie).

Visit your local bank for further information.

Electrical Appliances

In Canada, appliances use 120 volts with plug type B. Please be careful and take note! Plugging an appliance into an incorrect voltage outlet can cause an electrical fire. Some multi-voltage appliance models can be adjusted to match the proper current. A transformer or adaptor can also be purchased at any major electronics retailer.

Bathing Etiquette

When bathing in a tub or shower, make sure you don’t waste water and keep shower curtains on the inside of tubs to prevent flooding of the bathroom. Remember to regularly clean your bathroom. Lack of maintenance will lead to clogging and other issues that may mean you incur expensive repairs.

Insurance

Canada’s universal health-care system is well developed and ensures nearly all Canadian post-secondary institutions have medical-insurance plans available to international students. Get in touch with the Canadian educational institution you plan to attend for information about health insurance coverage for yourself.

Whether or not you plan to purchase coverage from a Canadian institution, travel health insurance is usually a must!

Setting up a Bank Account

Your first task when getting settled is to head over to the nearest bank with all the necessary documents. The local bank will help you set up an account and issue a debit card.

International students from India and Philippines usually need a GIC (Guaranteed Investment Certificate) with ScotiaBank or ICICI Bank before coming to Canada. This is a monthly investment to help cover initial living expenses. After the first payment, monthly instalments will be set-up to cover expenses such as rent, utilities, food, medical, phone, Wi-Fi etc.

Bank Timings: Monday to Friday (10 a.m. to 4-5 p.m.). Most banks are closed on Sunday.

Some of the popular banks in Canada include:

ABMs

Canada has automatic banking machines (ABMs) which are located in most shopping centres, tourist attractions and banks, as well as in some convenience stores and gas stations. Most ABMs are operated by a major bank. While you can withdraw cash from am ABM not operated by your own bank, you will be charged a small fee for withdrawal from a local account, and more from a foreign bank.

  • All ABMs can be used for cash withdrawals.
  • Please enquire about international withdrawal fees from your bank back home before attempting to use your ABM card in Canada.
  • Check with your bank whether your card will be accepted at Canadian ABMs, and whether the networks used by both banks are compatible.

Your bank can inform you about networks and international withdrawal fees.

Campus Accommodation

First year students usually get guaranteed accommodation by their college or university, either on or off campus. You can choose to live in a private room or on a sharing basis with other students. The campus residence provides students with many opportunities to get involved in their college community and have an enriching academic experience.

Maple Assist Top Tip: Apply for a place as soon as your admission is through

Things to find out:

  • Are you sharing with someone?
  • What do you use to access the room and the residence building?
  • Can you have guests stay with you?
  • How close is it to campus?
  • What utilities are included: bedding, Wi-Fi, laundry etc.
  • Is there a mess for food?
  • How can you travel from residence?

Homestay

Homestay is an opportunity to live with, and be part of a Canadian family. The host family will provide three meals a day, depending on the plan chosen, and offer a supportive environment to learn and practice your English language skills, and help with your transition into the local culture.

  • Best for: Experiencing local culture, practicing English and receiving support
  • When to Apply: At least 6 weeks in advance.
  • How much? Usually $850 per month, excluding placement fee & refundable damage deposit

For more information, please visit the Homestay website.

Renting in town

If there is trouble securing accommodation, request the student services for alternative options. Check with the housing office or student union office on campus for a current list of rental units nearby. Since such private accommodations are not inspected by the institutions, it is your responsibility to contact the landlord, inspect the premises and determine their suitability.

Keep the following factors in mind when searching for accommodation:

  • What does the rent include?
  • Does it offer utilities like washing machines, Wi-Fi etc.?
  • How close is it to school?
  • What is the nearest bus stop and how frequent are the buses?
  • How long a lease do you have to sign?
  • What is the notice period?

You can also check online for places to rent on sites like this one.

Temporary Accommodation

Those needing a temporary place to stay in until they rent or buy a home can find useful information on hostels and hotels here.

Housing

Types of housing in Canada include:

  • Houses (detached, semi-detached houses or townhouses)
  • Condominiums (condos)
  • Rental apartments (with 1-3 bedrooms or bachelor units)
  • Rental rooms (private rooms in large homes)

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is the national housing agency. For information on renting or buying an apartment or house, please click here.

Before deciding to study in Canada, you should ensure that you have sufficient funds to cover your costs of living. As part of your student visa application, you must provide evidence that you can cover your living expenses while studying in Canada.

Maple Assist Top Tip: While you may be able to undertake part-time work during your time here, you should not rely on this income to meet all your expenses.

Precisely how much you will need will vary depending on what and where you are studying, and the type of accommodation you choose, and, of course, on your own personal lifestyle.  In Canada, some costs vary according to your choice of a university and college, or even the provinces you will live in.

But, on average, students will spend up to CAD 10,000- 15,000 a year on living expenses, whether in a college or a university.

Please note: The costs below are an approximate guide only. Students should be aware that these costs will vary depending on where and what you choose to study in Canada.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for international students vary depending on the type of course, where you study and how long you study for. From postgraduate degrees that are either one year for Masters and Diplomas, or 4 year long Doctorates to graduate programs that take 3 years or even short-term English language courses, there are a variety of qualifications to be had at different yearly costs.

LIVING COSTS FOR COLLEGES

TUITION

Post-secondary programs: Usually CAD 14,000-15,500 per year

LIVING EXPENSES

10,000-12,000 a year (not including tuition)

  1. Insurance

Insurance should typically be included in the tuition.

Maple Assist Tip: Please note that the period of insurance begins only as soon as your classes officially begin, not before. It is advisable to obtain travel insurance.
  1. Accommodation

There is a wide selection of spaces to choose from- be it halls of residence (on or off-campus), home stays or off-campus flats.

  • On-campus accommodation may include a meal plan (Tip: Certain times of the year are pricier, such as the autumn semester) The cost usually includes an application fee. Another factor effecting cost is the type of room you are allocated or select, with private rooms costing up to 10,000 for semesters starting in September.

September-April: 6000-8500 CAD for the 8-month period (depending on location of campus and opting for a meal plan)

May-August: CAD 500-600 a month (without a meal plan)

  • Homestays allow international students to live with a Canadian family where they are given a private bedroom and 1 to 3 meals a day. Costs depend on proximity to the college and may range from CAD 800-1000 a month.
  • Off-campus accommodations usually cost CAD 45o-500 when shared, or 600-650 if you are renting with en suite arrangement.
Maple Assist Tip: Don’t forget to ask your college for vetted recommendations
  1. Miscellaneous

Includes expenditure on clothing, toiletries, maintenance, and entertainment like hobbies and travelling. Many tertiary education institutions offer discount cards for students. Expenses come CAD 900- 1200 for a year depending on one’s lifestyle.

  1. Textbooks

Expenses on books and other academic material can cost anything between CAD 500-2000.

Maple Assist Top Tip: Make sure you explore second hand options that turn out to be much cheaper (these can be found in bookstores and libraries on campus). Students also have the option of downloading and sharing e-books.
  1. Food

Estimated monthly costs for groceries are CAD 300-400, and CAD 3500-4500 annually. Alternatively, explore a meal plan for CAD 5000- 5500.

  1. Transport

All Canadian cities and most towns have buses, and some areas offer cheaper bus fares for students. Bus passes in some colleges are free while in other colleges are about CAD 80-100 for a year’s pass. These passes allow for free travelling within the city, and typically can be used from the first day of class.

  1. Phone & Internet

Choose from monthly account plans or pre-paid plans for mobile phones. A basic to full plan can cost anything between CAD 25-50 a month, or CAD 300- 600 annually. Phone service providers often come to campus during orientations, offering special student plans.

Maple Assist Tip: Free Wi-Fi is usually available on campuses, and in areas around the city if you wish to avoid additional expenses on your phone.
  1. Technology

Phones and laptops, if they need to be purchased, will cost around CAD 2000.

LIVING COSTS FOR UNIVERSITIES

TUITION

Graduate programs: CAD 10,000-25,000 per year

Undergraduate: CAD 15,000-50,000

LIVING EXPENSES

10,000-15,000 a year (not including tuition)

  1. Insurance

Insurance should typically be included in the tuition. Those interested in getting medical insurance will have to pay CAD 450-500. An extended health and dental plan will cost about CAD 250-300.

Maple Assist Top Tip: Please note that the period of insurance begins only as soon as your classes officially begin, not before. It is advisable to obtain travel insurance.
  1. Accommodation

There is a wide selection of spaces to choose from- be it halls of residence (on or off-campus), home stays or off-campus flats.

  • On-campus accommodation may or may not include a meal plan. The cost depends on the type of room you are allocated or select, and rooms are in the range of CAD 5,500-10,000.
  • Homestays allow international students to live with a Canadian family where they are given a private bedroom. Costs depend on proximity to the college and inclusivity of meals, and range from CAD 500-1000 a month.
  • Off-campus accommodations can be rented at CAD 500 on a sharing basis per month and can go up to CAD 850 for independent townhouses.
Maple Assist Tip: A rent safety deposit may have to be paid, which is usually a month’s rent.
  1. Miscellaneous

Includes expenditure on clothing, toiletries, maintenance, and entertainment like hobbies and travelling. Many tertiary education institutions offer discount cards for students. Expenses come CAD 900- 1200 for a year depending on one’s lifestyle.

  1. Textbooks

Expenses on books and other academic material can cost anything between CAD 1000-2000.

Maple Assist Top Tip: Make sure you explore second hand options that turn out to be much cheaper (these can be found in bookstores and libraries on campus). Students also have the option of downloading and sharing e-books.
  1. Food

Estimated monthly costs for groceries are CAD 300-400, and CAD 3500-4500 annually. Alternatively, explore a meal plan option for CAD 4000- 5000. Meal plans work through swiping for each meal, very similar to using a prepaid card.

  1. Transport

All Canadian cities and most towns have buses, and some areas offer cheaper bus fares for students. Some universities include a complimentary annual bus pass in the tuition fee, depending on the city and institution. These passes allow for free travelling within the city, and typically can be used from the first day of class. When not inclusive, annual bus passes for students can be purchased for CAD 500-600.

  1. Phone & internet

Choose from monthly account plans or pre-paid plans for mobile phones. A basic to full plan can cost anything between CAD 25-50 a month, or CAD 300- 600 annually. Phone service providers often come to campus during orientations, offering special student plans.

Maple Assist Tip: Free Wi-Fi is usually available on campuses, and in areas around the city if you wish to avoid additional expenses on your phone.
  1. Technology

Phones and laptops, if they need to be purchased, will cost around CAD 2000.

The best ways of exploring your city are here…

Transit

In Canada you have many options for travelling within your city and exploring parts of the country as well. Some commonly used modes of transport are:

Walking
Walking is the easiest way to travel short distances all the while familiarizing yourself with your surroundings. Purchase a map of your city and set out to discover parts of it.

Buses
Bus travel in Canada includes local transit or long-distance vehicles. Besides local transit, there are bus-line companies that offer a network of reliable bus services throughout the country, including:

Calgary-Banff: Banff Airporter
Rockies: Brewster Transportation & Tours
Toronto/Montreal: Coach Canada, Gray Line
Quebec: Orléans Express
BC: Pacific Coach Lines
Canada and USA: Greyhound
Airbus service to and from London or Toronto: Robert Q
Vancouver-Seattle: Quick Shuttle

Cabs/Rentals
If you are unable to find public transportation, local cabs can be hired through companies like Yellow Cab or Uber. You can also rent a car from Hertz, Avis, Alamo and Budget, found in major airports, if you meet the driving license conditions listed in Local Know-How.

Cycling
Bikes are a popular way for students to travel around campus and across town as well. Certain campuses provides bike lockers for storage purposes.

Rail
VIA Rail provides passenger rail service in Canada. This includes twice-weekly service between Montréal and Halifax as well as transport between Montréal and Toronto to Vancouver.

Airplane
Flying is the fastest way to travel across Canada. Canada has two large air carriers, Air Canada and WestJet. Regional airlines include Porter Airlines, which flies out from Toronto Island Airport to Ottawa, Montréal, Halifax and a number of U.S. cities. All Canadian carriers provide online booking services and a range of prices.

Driving

If you are staying in Canada for less than three months, you can use a valid driver’s licence issued by your country. If you are staying longer than three months, you must obtain an international driver’s licence (IDL) from your country of residence.

Some facts:

  • The IDL is a special licence that allows motorists to drive internationally with a valid driver’s licence from their country of residence.
  • You must apply and get this license in your home country since applying in Canada is not allowed.
  • The license is also required if you wish to hire or buy a car locally. Take note of Canadian driving rules.
  • Car rentals are available for those holding a valid driver’s licence. Generally, the minimum age to rent is 25.

Obtaining a license in Canada

There are three stages to obtaining a driver’s license:

G1: Similar to a learner’s license that requires a fully licensed driver to accompany you at all times.
G2: You are allowed to drive on your own with a few exceptions.
G: You can drive anytime and anywhere in Canada.

More information on driving in Canada is available here.

If you have more than 2 years of driving experience in your home country, please review the information contained in this link on how that experience can be acknowledged.

How to make calls, Canadian phone and postal services, and more!

Stay Connected

Getting a local SIM is important to stay connected. You can either buy a new phone for a Canadian SIM, or check the compatibility of your current phone with local Canadian servers.

Make sure you understand the terms of your contract including:

  • Fee for international calls and any free minutes
  • Limits on text messages or calls
  • Length of the contract or month-to-month terms
  • Financial penalties for ending a contract early

Maple Assist Top Tips:

  • When you sign up for a home or mobile plan, you will generally need to provide two kinds of identification (permanent resident card, driver’s licence, passport etc.)
  • If you are carrying a phone from home, don’t forget to take the charger along, and buy an adaptor
  • Campuses usually provide free wi-fi
  • You can also build a credit score in Canada by paying your bills on time on a contract phone

Major service providers for Internet and cable services in Canada include Telus, Shaw, Rogers, Bell, Virgin and Koodo.

Making Calls

Locally – Most Canadian telephone numbers have 10 digits in the following format 012 – 345 – 6789. The first three digits are the “area code” and the seven last digits are the number itself. Each region in Canada has a different area code with three digits.

Internationally – To call or fax an international number from Canada, you will need to dial 00+ Country Code + Area/State Code + Local Number. In case you are calling a mobile number, dial 00+ Country Code + Mobile Number. To call into Canada from another country, dial 001 + Area Code + Local Number.

Telephone books, available in most public libraries, have the following information:

• Detailed instructions on how to make telephone calls
• Area codes within Canada as well as international country codes and area codes
• Complete list of home and business telephone numbers

Access this link for information on area codes in Canada and outside Canada.

There are public telephones in many Canadian towns and cities. You pay by using a calling card (available at most convenience stores) or by inserting coins.

Postal Services

Canada Post allows you to send and receive mail and parcels to and from anywhere in the world. For information on the many services and products offered by Canada Post, visit the Canada Post website or a post office in your city or town.

Emergency

In the event of an emergency, for the police, fire brigade or ambulance, dial 911 for an immediate response. Also make sure that you have registered your presence with the embassy or consulate of your home country.

Go Shopping!

Groceries – If you plan on cooking yourself, groceries can be bought in local shops around your campus or place of stay. Some convenience stores are FreshCo, Shopper’s Drug Mart or Mac’s. Certain institutions arrange weekly trips to larger supermarkets like Walmart free of cost.

Books & Stationery – Your campus will have a local bookstore where your course books can be purchased, along with any stationary or college merchandise.

Clothes and More – Canada is filled with malls where you can buy a variety of clothing as well as any accessories. Some big chains for reasonable shopping are Walmart and Costco. The Dollar Store or thrift shops can be visited if you wish to purchase any articles at very low rates.

Go Exploring!

Canada has some incredible sights to offer to those who visit or stay here. As a student you can use your holidays and long weekends to explore the many attractions Canada is famous for. Extending from Vancouver Island and the Rocky Mountains in the West, to the lakes and plains of the Prairies all the way to the renowned Niagara Falls in the east, there are enough wonders for you to discover from coast to coast, and from province to province.

  • Visit the Niagara Falls, go whitewater rafting in the Northwest Territories or sailing on the Great Lakes
  • Ski the Western Rockies, or Mont Tremblant and Mont Sainte-Anne in the East
  • Visit during ‘Carnaval’, Québec city’s vibrant winter festival
  • Experience the ‘Wild West’ at Calgary Stampede
  • Explore national park in autumn time; go camping, canoeing, hiking or surfing in summer, snowshoeing, cross-country or alpine skiing in winter
  • Explore the prairies on horseback or fly fishing in Manitoba
  • Climb up the CN Tower in Toronto’s downtown core
  • See the Northern Lights in the Canadian arctic

Keep exploring here!